Paul Lewis. Picture: Josep Molina

Words: Peta Stewart

Most artists have three questions when approached by an orchestra’s artistic management: What’s the date (January 26)? What’s the repertoire (Brahms Piano Concerto no 1)? What’s the fee (undisclosed!)?  But Paul Lewis, here to open the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra’s 11th  International Summer Music Festival, there was a fourth:  What’s the serial number of the Steinway.  Reassured that despite its age (it was born in Hamburg in 1981),  the piano had been refurbished, he agreed to come.  And it’s a good thing he did, because this crystallized a discussion going round and round in circles within the CPO: A good piano is key to a good orchestra and it was well past time for a new one. Buy it and a fundraising drive can follow!

So Lewis will inaugurate the orchestra’s brand new Steinway, chosen in November by Cape Town pianist Francois du Toit, from those on offer in the Steinway factory in Hamburg, Germany. Sponsorship of the keys is available through and with the R18 000 comes the chance to meet the artist and be recognized in the programmes and on the web.

When approached by the CPO, Lewis, who is one of the most sought-after pianists on the international scene, had one week in between his engagements; and he was happy to forgo a week’s downtime at home in the UK and come to Cape Town. He had heard good things about the city from his father who had visited here, and from Jack Liebeck, a violinist who played in the 2016 Summer Festival with the CPO. So he took the opportunity to scout out the city before he returns, hopefully for another engagement this time with his family, or at the least with his family on holiday.

BBC Chamber Proms at Cadogan Hall

Lewis is on the go for more weeks a year than he cares to think and, combined with his wife’s exacting schedule, he has little enough family time. His wife is Norwegian cellist Bjorg Lewis, who is part of the Vertava Quartet which has its own hectic schedule. Much as they would love to play together, they rarely do.

A couple of years ago he did a tour with the quartet that took them through much of Europe, America and Canada. The last time was in the BBC Chamber Proms at Cadogan Hall in 2016.  Where they do play together is their Midsummer Chamber Music Festival in the Chilterns, a place close enough to London but far enough to be in the country. Except for this past year, that is. He got “swooped by a seagull” and hurt a finger, not something a pianist wants to do, and had to cancel his performance!

The concert takes place under the direction of Dutch conductor Arjan Tien. Also on the programme are the overture by Berlioz and the Symphony no 5 by Beethoven.

When, where: Jan 26, at 8pm, The Cape Town City Hall

Book: Artscape Dial-a-Seat 021 421 7695, or Computicket, 0861 915 8000,

Info:  or 021 410 9809